Mihai Ceciu, the owner of the Horogivm watchmaking laboratory, a master watchmaker, spoke about his great passion in the podcast moderated by Mirel Curea, at evz.ro.
“I got into watches in the 9th, 10th grade, then it was the period of electronic watches, watches with songs, with digital display. I took them apart with great curiosity and was able to repair defects that I considered obvious, but I was surprised that older watchmakers hated these watches. It seemed that they were watches that did not need repair and that they would lose their object of work. They came after the electromechanical, stepper motor clocks, I enjoyed discovering how they worked and doing troubleshooting analysis on them. I detached myself from everything that then meant the level of watchmaking. I was the first buyer of a control device for electromechanical watches, later discovering mechanical watches, which remained the definitive love”, said Mihai Ceciu.
He went to study in Switzerland, the “home of watches”
He perfected his art in Switzerland, a leading watchmaking country.
“I arrived in Switzerland for the first time in 1999 at Omega, a two-week course that completely set everything that quality means and changed my values. I read books translated into Romanian about the job and I thought that what I do is super ok. The traveling merchants, the Russians, came with all kinds of specific, exchangeable tools, we bought from them.
I arrived in ’99 at Omega for a two-week course and everything changed. I understood how important cleanliness is in the laboratory, what the quality of lubrication means, I understood that work is done correctly under a stereomicroscope. The foundations of what Swiss horology is all about have been laid. The courses in Romania were behind, after the visit I realized that I was far behind.
I liked the job of a watchmaker too much. I started oil and gas in Ploiești and gave up, because it wasn’t for me, I studied Fine Mechanics at the Polytechnic. After I gave my bachelor’s thesis, a watch control device, I went to Switzerland to the Wostep school. Not only was it expensive, I asked a year in advance to accept installment payments, it was horrendously expensive. All through college I worked in a watch workshop, trying to make it at home.
In 2003 I was the first Eastern European to be admitted and to complete the courses. In 2003 I was a pioneer in this field. With the Wostep school headhunters appeared, people who were looking for good watchmakers, we received tempting offers from some companies in Switzerland. It was the easiest option, but I said it didn’t make sense, that I left to raise the level of my works and returned to the country. in 2004 I opened the Antic Horologivm workshop, the name I found in Switzerland with a colleague who spoke five foreign languages and was learning Latin to become a teacher. Hence comes “horologivm” written with “v” instead of “u”. Later they followed all kinds of specialization courses at several companies, I went to many and saw the differences. Everywhere I went, I looked for technical solutions, ideas, to use them in my laboratory”, Ceciu continued.
“I was completely discouraged and disappointed”
“I came back to Switzerland, I did courses to teach other watchmakers, I took an exam to go to the last stage which meant restoration for complicated watches. I took the exam but unfortunately the teacher assigned to us, I was also with a girl from Japan, left school to become independent in England and later brought out a perpetual calendar watch with instant jump. From February 28 it jumps instantly to March 1. It’s with mechanical memory, but none of them could jump instantly, it took them 30 minutes. That’s how I was left without a teacher.
I was completely discouraged and disappointed because my desire to become the best in the field was cut short for lack of a teacher. I tried to find other solutions because I knew it was a school for watchmakers outside of Switzerland. I was crazy enough to go to a school, a master’s degree in watch movement design in French, which I didn’t know, and it was an achievement. At this school I was again the first person from Eastern Europe. that’s where the Swiss or those who work in France usually go and get sent. I also had to get a job in Switzerland to be sent to the courses. Ulysse Nardin hired me. It was the only solution for me to be enrolled in school.
They made a post for me, created the day before, in restoration. They didn’t lose me, I worked for them for three years, I asked to be recommended to go to classes, to the top level school. The final work was no longer given by them, it was a turbulent time with Crimea and Putin said they were no longer importing watches from Europe, Ulysse Nardin was exporting heavily to Russia. I asked to leave and had a colleague thank me, because he should have been kicked out.
My thesis was given by horology, the theme. It was building a mechanism from scratch with some specifications. After years, I hope to start assembling the prototypes in January, there will be five pieces.
Mechanically, no watch confuses me, but there is a direction the industry has taken, they say, to guarantee the accuracy and stability of the watch. The Swatch Group were wary of the Nivarox monopoly, the makers of the balance spring, and in order to control their production, they told them they could only deliver ten pieces a year. They knew exactly that there was no way the contestants could make more tracks. They tried to go to other technical solutions and appeared spirals or silicon watch components, which if broken you can’t do anything. The good thing is that certain components are reversible, we can always switch to steel parts.”
The specialist would like to study a famous clock that belonged to King Michael
“I’m looking to get to the Royal House to service this piece. Five years ago I was at a table with the trainer from Audemars Piguet, a former colleague from Wostep, we are starting to know all our colleagues from this school. I was at a table and they said to me “Do you know that your king has the most expensive watch in the world?”. We did not know this, and there is still a great debate on this topic: the existing pictures were in black and white, and we do not know whether the watch is steel or gold. In one coloring it also appeared in gold. It’s either both watches, or in the photo it was tinted to look gold. If it is the steel watch it is by far the most expensive watch in the world. (Mirel Curea claims it is the steel watch because he personally saw the King wearing it)
As far as I know five pieces were produced, Patek Philippe produced this calendar chronograph in steel. They were destroyed along the way and I think there are only two left now. My desire is to get to service this watch. This year we wanted to put out a tribute watch for Queen Mary, 100 years since the coronation, a unique piece, specially crafted from gold, several people who worked on the project.